Beyond the Flight Deck – British Airways Pilots & Customer Service
Developing Customer Service Skills & Practice in Commercial Airline Pilots

[/one_third_last] Category: Customer Engagement
Subcategory: Customer Service
Award won: Customer Service subcategory

The BFD programme is a culture change initiative within BA. With a premium brand comes high expectations for excellent customer experiences. Whilst pilots’ primary responsibility is the safe operation of the airframe, when they do interact with customers, they have a huge impact, and can significantly enhance the flying experience and brand loyalty.
There are a number of activities that are part of the overall programme. The centerpiece is a two-day development course, provided for all 3,700 BA pilots by an independent firm of corporate psychologists.
The programme is having a definitive and measureable ROI impact.

The BFD initiative has had a significant and measureable impact on both customer satisfaction and pilot behaviour.
Numerical and narrative impact showed a ten percentage point uplift in satisfaction scores for BA customers who had had some form of interaction with their pilot before, during or after their flight, in addition to an 11% uplift in likelihood to recommend BA and an 11% increase in likelihood to travel with BA again. There are many individual examples of great customer feedback.
The feedback from pilots about participation in the BFD programme has consistently been excellent.

This culture change initiative is highly innovative, and something quite different for pilots, who are more used to rigorous technical training. There has never been anything similar attempted within BA before, and as far as we know, there is no other programme like it with any other airline in the world.
Whilst the notion of pilots interacting with customers is not new, the real innovation lies is the fact that BFD is being introduced in a consistent, meaningful, authentic and thoughtful way as part of a coherent strategy within the airline around customer experience.[/one_half_last]

A key challenge of the initiative has been about how to engage a senior section of the BA workforce in a set of behaviours that is not part of their primary role or responsibility. For a pilot the safe operation of an aircraft always comes ahead of customer service, and thus ‘BFD behaviours’ cannot be mandated or standardised for all. However, the key principle is: the collective impact of small, discretionary efforts has a huge impact on customer perception, loyalty and likelihood to recommend.
Because of these issues, the delivery of the programme has provided significant learning opportunities on the best ways to approach this with a remote, professional population.

It is the belief of BA and their partners (ORConsulting) that the delivery of the BFD programme has set the benchmark for using colleague engagement to impact directly on customer experience within the airline industry and with reference to the role of the pilot.
There is also much broad learning to be drawn from the programme. It requires a rather unique approach to engage and upskill a senior leadership population within a business with the mindset, skills, behaviours and communication required to deliver excellent customer service, especially when this is not the primary function of their job description.[/one_half_last]